As Peter Drucker once said, “Good manners are the lubricating oil of organizations.” Effective leaders of today know that good manners and civility are critical to success in workplace relationships as well in life. Our manners and civility can affect team performance and have a ripple effect in how our teams respond to our customers. Good manners flow not from patterned niceness, but from genuine appreciation of how we treat colleagues individually and the respect we have for the work of our fellow teammates. Our behavior as well as our words build a climate of trust, a climate of respect, and a climate where mission, values, and equal access pervade the organization. When we acknowledge the humanity of the other person, we reinforce that person’s worth and dignity. This is how we build the healthy, inclusive, and embracing relationships that unleash the human spirit.
Civility Begins With Us
If we want civility to take hold, we must start to be civil ourselves. We cannot dismiss this as soft management and soft talk, but challenge ourselves to measure the performance of a team whose work is underscored by trust, civility, and good manners against a team where mistrust, disrespect, and lack of consideration are the rule of the day. No contest. Spirit, motivation, respect, and appreciation win every time. Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world. An organization that lacks civility will never prosper in any economy.
We now see leaders of the future who know that leadership has little to do with power and everything to do with responsibility. Dispersed leadership is the hallmark of a great organization starts with a shared commitment to mission and purpose. It is based on the clear delegation of tasks, and accountability for results. The energy, synergy, and productivity we count on to move the organization forward is determined by how people work together, by the example that we set every day. As leaders, we must demonstrate that attitude in ourselves before we can expect it in others.
Civility Is Not A Buzzword
In the rush to “reinvent” our organizations, or ourselves, we sometimes overlook the principles that helped early leaders succeed. We forget that long before “civility” became a buzzword, leaders built genuine relationships in work life. The organization in the past was based relationship-centered, mission-focused, and valued based. Good manners were common, not uncommon. Civility was not something that had to be mandated rather it was the norm. Organizations didn’t have to have training in civility, rather, it was a given. Our society has changed and our organizations and leaders are now having to be retrained in civility.
Real Etiquette Is Not Mindless
The demands in our lives have increased. As leaders, we are pulled in multiple directions and our 24/7 information flow gives little time for us to process everything that is put in front of us. Relationships are now virtual and real life. Two different places but really the same when you consider how these worlds collide. The more effective the leaders are, the more they are able to make time for people and show genuine consideration for others. It is a graceful use of manners, the lubricating oil, to be sure. But it is also motivating and an effective way to work with people and, ultimately, “make their strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant.”
Too often we convey the message that we are rushed for time during an appointment, but if we focus on the person and what he or she brings, we send a very different message: that our time with that colleague is the most important thing we can be doing at the moment. Listening to our internal customers is as important as listening to our external customers. Focus and attention convey genuine respect, which is the cornerstone of trust. It also helps us become more focused, organized, and in the end more productive.
Every day has its priorities, its focus. We have to put in the time and make a difference. As leaders, our ability to cultivate relationship and be mindful of our manners is critical to our success. The question is not just how we balance our lives but how we value our relationships. We make the choice to choose civility in every decision and interaction that we take daily. It’s up to us as leaders to choose wisely.